Arrange legal needs pre-deployment
By Capt. Derek Coyne, Judge Advocate General Client Services
Every Soldier preparing for deployment must go through Soldier Readiness Processing. SRP qualifies Soldiers for
an upcoming deployment. The process is divided into two main areas: medical processing and administrative
processing. As part of the administrative processing, a representative from the Staff Judge Advocate is always
present at the SRP to provide Soldiers with basic legal assistance needed prior to deployment: Wills and Powers of
Wills and POAs are not documents to be taken lightly; you should not approach the legal section of your SRP as
just another table you have to go by and get a signature. If you are going to need these types of documents prior to deployment, waiting until your SRP to start the process is the wrong answer. Soldiers needing these types of documents need to complete them as soon as they can, and leaders need to ensure their Soldiers are doing this.
Here is an example of a common exchange at the legal table during an SRP.
JA: Do you have a will or need a POA today?
Soldier: Nah, I am good. No will, and my wife still has the POA from my last deployment.
JA: Do you know when the POA expires and what kind of POA it is?
Soldier: It’s a general POA and not quite sure when it expires?
JA: Do you have children?
JA: Who will take care of them if anything was to happen to you?
Soldier: My spouse.
JA: What is something also happens to your spouse?
Soldier: Well, I guess my mom.
JA: I think you and your wife should consider creating a will so all of your intentions are clear. Fill out this worksheet and contact legal assistance for an appointment. Bring your POA with you, so we can look at.
Soldier: I don’t have time. We are heading out soon.
Often Soldiers do not know exactly what kind of legal assistance they need until they speak to a JA or hear from a
JA at an informational briefing. A will is the legal instrument that permits a person to make decisions on how his estate will be managed and distributed after his death. Some of the questions determining whether or not a will is needed include:
- Is the Soldier married and does he/she have children?
- What kinds of assets does the Soldier have?
- Does the Soldier have any special requests concerning potential burial arrangememts?
Also, there are some decisions that a will cannot direct. For example, a Soldier’s Servicemember’s Group Life
Insurance is a contract and not subject to the will. Whoever is listed as the beneficiary of your SGLI will get the benefit, regardless of what your will says. However, there are some measures that can be taken to ensure your intentions are met. For example if you want to create a trust for your beneficiaries; you need to set that up using your will and then change the language of your SGLI. Legal Assistance can help you do this.
A POA is a written document in which a Soldier appoints another person to act as an agent on his or her behalf, thus conferring authority on the agent to perform certain acts or functions on behalf of the Soldier. There are two different types of POAs: general and special. A general POA can be described as a blank check, giving another person unlimited power to act, including signing papers, checks, title documents, contracts, handling
bank accounts and other activities in the name of the Soldier granting the power. A special POA, however, limits the type of activities that may be conducted on a Soldier’s behalf.
Getting a POA is not a fix it all solution. Soldiers must know:
- What kind of activities do I need someone else to do in my absence?
- Does that person already have access?
- Will the institution even accept this POA?
These are all questions and issues that should not be addressed the day of the SRP. Soldiers, Families and
leaders need to plan accordingly. Deploying Soldiers are encouraged to come by the legal assistance as soon as they
can. Leaders feel free to contact our office to discuss setting up special briefing times for your team, squad or platoon. Will worksheets can be found on the community website at http://www.usag.vicenza.army.mil/sites/local/sja.asp.
For more information, please contact Legal Assistance in building 241, Mondays-Fridays 9 a.m.-12:00 and 1-4:30
p.m. at 634-7041 or 0444-71-7041.